HOUSTON (Covering Katy) – Ten years in prison is the sentence for a former Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy who admits possessing child pornography.
Donald Thomas Dehnert, 50, was sentenced on Friday by state District Judge Kelli Johnson after pleading guilty.
He pleaded guilty in exchange for letting the judge determine punishment. Had he gone to trial, a jury would have chosen the sentence. The strategy did not work. The judge handed down the maximum sentence. Dehnert was facing a sentence ranging from probation to 10 years in prison.
“When a peace officer violates their position of trust, they are going from protector to predator,” District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “And we work hard to bring them to justice, not just for their victims but for the entire community.”
He was arrested on four counts of possession of child pornography on March 28, 2018, as part of a joint sting operation undertaken by the Grand Prairie Police Department, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Texas Rangers, and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
He came under suspicion, and a warrant was issued to search his home based on an online undercover investigation where the defendant solicited sex with an undercover officer’s 5- and 11-year-old daughters.
Dehnert admitted having child pornography on a flash drive found at his home in Kingwood. He said he deleted the images, but forensics investigators were able to retrieve them. The flash drive had photos of nude children under two years old and a girl who appeared to be between six and eight years old. One image showed the girl seeming to perform a sexual act.
According to the agency, Dehnert joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1992 and was relieved of duty when he was arrested.
Assistant District Attorney Timothy Goodwin, who prosecuted the case, said the judge made the right decision in sentencing the former officer to the maximum.
“He was trusted to protect the vulnerable, but he chose to prey on them instead,” Goodwin said.
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